Maryland’s Faith Masonius is back making ‘championship-winning’ plays

Published 1/6/2023 6:00 a.m. EST, Updated 1/6/2023 8:32 a.m. EST

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - MARCH 22: Faith Masonius #13 of the Maryland Terrapins drives passed Bridget Birkhead #11 of the Mt. St. Mary's Mountaineers during the first half in the first round game of the 2021 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at the Alamodome on March 22, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas.

In the final seconds of a tie game at No. 7 Notre Dame, Faith Masonius sensed a game-winning opportunity for the Maryland women’s basketball team slipping away.

Coach Brenda Frese had drawn up a play: Diamond Miller was supposed to come off a screen, drive to the basket and attempt to win the game for the Terrapins. But a disjointed entry pass and a clogged lane left Maryland’s star guard stranded on the perimeter. The play was breaking down, and overtime seemed increasingly likely.

With three seconds remaining, Masonius conjured a last-ditch way to spring her teammate open. Using her instincts — “Just reading and playing basketball,” she said — she set an unplanned rescreen, hoping to give Miller a cleaner look at a potential buzzer-beater.

With the space Masonius helped create, Miller elevated off one foot, sank the winning basket and delivered a marquee victory for the Terps (12-3, 3-1 Big Ten), who continue their conference season with a 1 p.m. game Saturday against Michigan State (10-5, 2-2) at the Xfinity Center.

The dramatic shot earned Miller widespread notoriety, including Twitter shoutouts from NBA superstar Kevin Durant and Gov. Larry Hogan. But within the team, there was also recognition for Masonius’ unsung contributions to one of the signature moments of Maryland’s season.

“Those are the things that Faith does all the time that don’t fill up a statistics sheet but are the championship-winning plays,” Frese said.

The moment represented the unheralded but pivotal role Masonius has played for the 12-3 Terps this season following her recovery from a left ACL injury she sustained on Jan. 2, 2022 — just over one year ago.

ACL tears are among the most common and debilitating injuries for elite female athletes. According to recent studies by the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, women’s basketball players sit out an average of 12.5 months after tearing an ACL and play fewer games and minutes when they return.

But Masonius has defied those trends in multiple ways. The Belmar, New Jersey, native was back on the court for the Terps’ season opener Nov. 7 at George Mason, just 10 months after her injury.

In a season in which they have brought in and integrated nine new players on their roster, the Terps have depended on Masonius’ steadiness more than ever. The senior forward has started all 15 games — she started only once in three prior seasons in College Park — and is averaging career highs of 7.1 points and 26.8 minutes per contest. She also ranks second on the team in field goal percentage and third in rebounds.

“It really is quite remarkable — Faith is so far ahead in her course, and that’s a credit to Faith and the amount of work that she put into her rehab,” Frese said in November. “For her to be starting and providing the minutes is incredible.

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“I think it’s not a surprise in the fact of that’s who Faith is: Faith’s a winner, Faith is one of your hardest working players on the court, our glue. And so she obviously was a big hole that we were missing last year and just brings an incredible element for our team.”

In addition to being a fixture of Maryland’s starting lineup, Masonius has taken on a number of other key roles for the Terps this season.

One of just four returning players from last season, Masonius became a natural choice to serve as one of the Terps’ captains and has been a vocal presence at practices and games. Frese has called Masonius “another coach on the floor,” someone who directs the team on both the offensive and defensive ends.

On the court, Masonius’ contributions extend beyond the box score. Playing on a roster bereft of post players, the 6-foot-1-inch forward is often tasked with battling taller players in the paint. As she did against Notre Dame, Masonius is also counted on to make unselfish and heady plays that put her teammates in positions to succeed.

After making her mark as a 2,000-point scorer and state champion at New Jersey’s Manasquan High School, Masonius has taken pride in the complementary role she plays on Maryland’s star-laden roster.

“It’s the type of situation [where] you need to figure out what you need to do or what role you need to take on to get onto the floor,” Masonius said. “Coming into college, I realized, okay, I’ve always been the player who does the dirty work, who gets in, who fights, who jumps on the ground, loose balls, stuff like that. And I kind of embraced that role and took that role on.”

While Masoinus’ return this season may have appeared seamless, the reality was far different. For much of 2022, she spent several hours a day in physical therapy, her routine upended by the incessant grind and monotony of her recovery. Driven to be ready for the start of the season, she decided to spend the entire summer rehabbing her knee in College Park.


COME ALONG WITH ME!! A day in physical therapy for my acl recovery ❤️‍🩹 🤩 #aclsurgery #aclrecovery #lightday #umdwbb #basketball #fyp #MadewithKAContest

♬ original sound - faith.masonius

All along, Masonius dearly missed being on the court. After appearing in every game of her freshman and sophomore years, the 2021-22 season marked the first time Masonius sat out for the Terps, first due to a bout with COVID-19, then because of her injury. Limited to only nine games last season, she struggled to adjust to a new routine.

“Basketball is definitely like an outlet for me, and once that kind of got taken away, I had to focus on other things so I could stay mentally and physically okay,” Masonius said. “It was definitely a lot of ups and downs and did put me in a pretty rocky place for a while because I’m like, ‘What even the hell am I doing?’

“Instead of being on the basketball court for two hours, I was in PT for four hours. So everything was just different in my life.”

Even as she prepared to return ahead of this season, Masonius wasn’t sure that she would pick up where she left off for the Terps. Initially, she thought, “I’ll just be happy to run up and down the court,” she said. The hardest part was learning to trust that her surgically-repaired knee could withstand college basketball.

But Masonius has managed to exceed her own expectations. “Now, I don’t think twice about my knee,” she said.

Still, her rehab is ongoing. To handle the heavy minutes she has played, she requires extra time on recovery after games and continues to work diligently on her strength, flexibility and conditioning.

“This year, it’s definitely going to be a lot of up and down,” Masonius said. “I’m not used to the wear and tear of every single day, every single practice, so my legs do get tired. I get tired.”

Frese has acknowledged the need to thoughtfully manage Masonius’ load over the remainder of the season. In a rare opportunity for Maryland to lean a little bit less on its veteran forward, Frese limited Masonius to a season-low 14 minutes in Maryland’s 88-51 runaway victory over Purdue Fort Wayne on Dec. 21. She followed with a 16-minute outing on Dec. 30 against Minnesota.

“Purdue Fort Wayne was the first game we were able to rest her,” Frese said. “She had very few minutes, and it wasn’t anything but just us being very aware that we could find that game and the [holiday] break to be able to get her into a reset. So that’s where we just have to continue to be checking in and being smart because she does give 110% every time she’s on the floor.”

Frese might be looking to keep Masonius fresh not just for this season, but beyond. Because her injury occurred just before the halfway point of last season, Masonius qualified for a medical redshirt, which earned her an extra year of eligibility.

The NCAA also granted a COVID year to student-athletes like Masonius whose college careers were affected by the pandemic. Altogether, the additional eligibility means Masonius, a senior, could play as many as two more seasons of college basketball. She is currently in the process of applying to graduate school at Maryland.

Given what she has meant to the team over the last four seasons, the Terps would surely like to have Masonius around for as long as possible.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today if she wasn’t on the court,” Frese said.

Sapna Bansil is a pediatric occupational therapist turned journalist who is enrolled in the graduate program at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.